One iconic Japanese street snack is Taiyaki, which in English literally means grilled sea bream. As the name would not suggest, this snack is a pancake-like snack with a sweet filling. It is not at all fishy in taste or texture. It does, however, look like a fish.
Fish and pancakes may not seem like the most natural food combination, as delicious as they can be eaten separately. However, the origins of Taiyaki are deeply connected to eating fish, in particular, Tai (sea breams)- wherefrom the name Taiyaki is driven. In the past, Tai was an extremely expensive delicacy, usually reserved for the royals. The subtle and sweet taste of Tai is greatly prized in Japanese cuisine. However, the valuable Tai was out of reach for the common men during Edo.
The only thing close to Tai was that a common man could eat was Taiyaki. Using cheap everyday ingredients like red bean paste, they created biscuits stuffed with filling and made them into the shape of Tai. People then could pretend like they were sinking their teeth into the real Tai- when in reality they were simply snacking on fish-shaped biscuits. It was one of the ways people could fulfill their dreams, with a bit of imagination.
Nowadays, Taiyaki can be found everywhere from specialist shops to food stalls at festivals. The process of making them usually involves creating the batter, pouring it into hot molds and then adding the sweet filling inside the pancake. After which, the molds are turned around to ensure even grilling. And within minutes, they are ready to serve!
Taiyaki nowadays come in all sorts of flavors and gimmicks, running the gamut from parfait Taiyaki (where the ice cream being stuffed into the mouth of the Tai), to sugared pastry Taiyaki, where the pancake-like texture is all but replaced by danish pastry flakes.
So long as the real Tai still remains relatively expensive compared to the Taiyaki, the future of Taiyaki seems to be assured!